Balancing Career With Life – Starfish Designs

2 05 2008

For the last seven months I have been, in the traditional sense, career-less; last September after living in urban America for 11 years my family and I made a life change, packed our bags and headed for the sun. For assorted reasons I knew that I wouldn’t be working again for a while, and while attempting to enjoy my new found career-less freedom, and not knowing what it would lead to, I purchased my first sewing machine. I started out making a few things for our new home, and some gifts for family and friends mainly small pouches and coin purses, using a technique that I call Modern Patchwork. In early March, on an impulse, I signed up for my first craft show. The show was a complete success, and Starfish Designs became a concrete reality.

Coral Sunset Zippered Pouch

In two weeks from now the balancing act will become more complicated; as it stands now I am juggling my home and family, craft business, and an attempt at self-sufficiency gardening, soon added to the pot will be a return to my former career as an Architect. I would love for my craft business to be my only business, but for now, well…you know. Now I am starting to wonder how I will do it all: checklists, calendars, schedules, time frames, and self imposed deadlines all seem like a tremendous amount of pressure and after all those were the very stresses of the life that we consciously left behind. So instead I have decided to set a series of suggested, small, manageable, evolving, and no pressure, goals for Starfish Designs:

Production Creation:

There is something very rewarding about creating one piece at a time start to finish, for one no two bags are alike, and the excitement of seeing each one completed keeps me interested in what I am doing as well. Unfortunately the “one at time” strategy, albeit the most creative, doesn’t really fit with my no pressure business goals. Selecting and combining fabrics is one aspect of my design process that I have elected not to push into production mode. Therefore in the interest of creativity I am committed to hand selecting and coordinating my fabrics, no two will be alike, and in the interest of production…well, I will have to be very, very, very disciplined and resort to good old efficient assembly line production: cutting, pinning, zippers, stitch, press…repeat.


The internet is a sea of networking and marketing opportunities for design businesses of all types and sizes, most anyone you encounter in the online world of handmade will, of course nicely, head you in endless directions all leading to the most effective channels for promoting your craft. As I am floating about on an island in the Caribbean, dedicating a measure of my time to marketing is particularly important. I must admit that I have created an informal no pressure checklist outlining my concentrated marketing efforts for the week, most of which I hope to achieve, very early, every Sunday morning. What all of this means is that is that if on Wednesday a fellow designer tells me about a fantastic marketing opportunity or two it will have to wait until Sunday and until there is room for it to become part of my no pressure checklist. Again this will require discipline…

Time MisManagement:

Now that 8 hours of my day will be dedicated to being what I was originally intended to be, some attention will have to be given to finding a few extra hours here and there to conduct the business of Starfish Designs, here’s my list so far:

  • 2 hours per day commuting to work (with my husband driving) = 10 Hours/week. This time could easily be used for combining and coordinating fabrics, sketching, pinning, and preparing orders. Due to the way that my husband drives I have ruled out both cutting and pressing ;)!
  • 1 hour per day eating lunch which takes 1/2 an hour to eat, so 1/2 an hour per day = 2.5 Hours/week This time will be dedicated to responding to emails, processing orders, editing product photos and other computer based work on my laptop.
  • 1 hour per day waking up earlier = 5 Hours/week. This time will be dedicated toward sourcing my materials and supplies on the internet. Nearly 75% of my materials and supplies come from wonderful Ebay sellers; a few weeks ago I spent a bit of time developing a spreadsheet for use in conjunction with Ebay. The spreadsheet is complete with formulas that determine my maximum bid based on the required profit margin for a particular design. This really saves me time and money, and puts an end to countless hours of unfocused surfing on Ebay.

Zippered PouchesSo that works out to be (approximately) 17.5 hours per week, that plus my 2 hours of scheduled actual Production Creation time per day which is limited, for now, to Monday through Friday totals 27.5 hours per week. Well there you have it, a by no means no complete, no pressure approach to balancing all of the above. I must say that after putting all of this down on paper I know that I can only allow my self a bit of latitude for those times when I lose my balance.